After visiting Chefchaouen, Danielle and I spent a few days staying with a friend based in a small village outside of Fes, and then we were ready to see the Sahara Desert!
Now, we had only heard about Sahara tours leaving from Marrakech, so at first we thought we would have to go all the way to Marrakech from Fes and then down to Merzouga, which would have been insane. But then it turned out there actually is a bus from Fes straight to Merzouga, phew! So instead of booking a full desert tour we headed to Merzouga on our own and then sorted an independent desert trek from there.
We arrived in Merzouga at 7 am and then booked a room to get some actual sleep at L’Auberge Petit Prince. (If you want to do the same, book the room for the night before your 7 am arrival).
We found this hotel through our friend whom we visited in a village outside of Fes, as she’s friends with the owners. And the owners were SO so nice. The manager picked us up from the bus station and showed us straight to our (beautiful) room to get some rest.
And then when we woke up they whipped up a delicious Moroccan breakfast for us before be set off on our camels at around 4 pm.
It seems like pretty much every hotel in Merzouga offers their own camel treks into the desert and overnight stays at their own private desert camps. Le Petit Prince also offered a tour, so we simply booked our camel trek through them.
The best part? Because we didn’t go through one of the larger Marrakech tours we were the only two people on our camel trek into the desert.
We rode about 1.5 hours into the desert (not sure my legs could have managed much longer than that on a camel, ha) and then our guide went to set up camp while Danielle and I climbed up a dune to watch the sunset.
So, I thought we would be sleeping on the ground in tents, but apparently that’s not how it’s done. We had a bedroom with beds and nightstands and pretty twinkly lights. Is this what the children are calling glamping?
Also, you know how I said the best part was that Danielle and I had the trek and camp all to ourselves? Actually that was wrong. The best part was the camp’s adorable dog Bruno!
I had heard a few stories from different female travelers about feeling uncomfortable with their desert guides in Morocco at night – one girl even had her guide show up in her tent at night. So I was kind of relieved that our guide and his two helpers in the camp were kids in their late teens/early twenties. So like, zero creepiness. (Plus our tent door bolted from the inside.)
It was really fun hanging out with them at night and learning more about the Amazigh culture, though we did go to bed soon after dinner – we had an early bus to catch the next morning so would be leaving the desert at 5:30 am!
I think most tours leave after sunrise, but it was really magical riding our camels back under the starry night sky. The moon had been really bright at night, so it was also nice to see the sky after the moon had set as the stars were incredible. And of course we took the time to stop for a bit to watch the sunrise over the dunes.
And then we caught the 8 am bus for the 12 hour journey to Marrakech.
I still really want to visit Western Sahara (as in the country), but seeing Morocco’s corner of the desert was 100% worth the long journey. I know it’s possible to do some desert tours closer to Marrakech, but if you want the huge orange dunes you’ll have to head down to the Sahara.
Practical info about booking a desert trek in Merzouga:
I’m not sure of the exact breakdown of costs, but Danielle and I each paid 450 MAD (45 USD) for a bed in an ensuite twin room for the day, two breakfasts and one lunch, and our camel trek into the desert, including the camp accommodation and dinner.
I’m sure you can find cheaper tours with more basic accommodation, and there are also super luxurious desert tours that will cost you several hundred dollars. Ours was a good mid-range option. Click here for more details and to check the current prices at L’Auberge Petit Prince here.The Supratours bus from Fes to Merzouga left at 20:30 and took 7.5 hours and cost 170 MAD.
The Supratours bus from Merzouga to Marrakech left at 8 am and took 12.5 hours and cost 220 MAD.
What to wear on a Sahara Desert trek
Merzouga is full of tourists heading out into the Sahara, but it’s still part of Morocco so you’ll still want to dress conservatively. So like, no short shorts or tank tops.
I wore loose trousers and a blouse and brought warm sweaters for the evenings, as once the sun went down the desert got really cold. We didn’t do much walking besides up the dunes (which I did barefoot) so I just wore canvas sneakers.